Re: Left handed conductors - question...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Simon_Horn, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    Thirty years ago, I understand that children at school got rapped across the knuckles with a ruler by the teacher when they attempted to fulfil a genetically decided task of writing with their left hand. I guess the reason was practical enough – in that the wet ink from the pen would be smudged by the palm as it followed the hand. Of course, the invention of the biro negated the need for teachers to ‘persuade’ left handed pupils to use their right hand.

    10 years ago it was suggested to me at university that I should not conduct with my left hand – presumably because the text books said not to. Today, it has again been suggested (perhaps gently ‘persuaded’ even!) by people who should know, that I should not use my left hand to conduct and should perhaps try re-learning myself with my right – why??! What is wrong with left handed conductors?

    The reason given was that bands/ensembles may get confused with a left handed conductor. Why? I’ve been conducted by both left handed and right handed conductors with no problems at all. I think it must be very similar to driving on the wrong side of the road in Europe – a bit strange at first but after a short while you’re fine!

    So, the question is – does anyone know any really good left handed conductors? Is there any good reason why it continues to be discouraged at teaching establishments – or is this just a hangover from a bygone age/text books? Should left handed conductors pander to the pressure of the majority and go against their own genetically programmed preferences?

    I really do want to continue to conduct and of course I will re-learn myself to do this with my right hand if I can find a good reason. Can anyone suggest any or back up my argument by listing some really good left handed conductors?

    Thanks, Simon
  2. 9foot

    9foot New Member

    I wouldn't worry if I were you.

    James Watson is left handed and and it didn't do his conducting career any harm at all! Think back to the Desford and Dyke years when he was there. Carry on as you are if you feel comfortable, don't let others make you feel uncomfortable or that may in itself start creeping into other aspects of your own conducting, such as confidence in front of the band. That would then probably be more detrimental than any other aspect of your conducting technique, left handed or not.

    Keep it up.

  3. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    As a fellow left hander, first although now three months away from 60, I didn't get any bad teaching regarding writing with my left hand, and even got encouragement to seek out pens with specially designed nibs for left handers (Yes they did, and still do make them, the fountain pen isn't yet dead) As an engineer in practical employment and of course a cornet player and preserved railway steam engine driver for hobby, I do obviously find both obstructions to my left handedness but also because I have had to adapt at some things, I feel now to be better off than an ordinary right hander, who can't do a tremendous number of things with their left hand. Mind you I still can't write legibly with my right hand.
    So i must insist that you keep conducting with your left hand and maintain the fight for equal rights for left handers.
    By the way although I play the cornet using my right hand fingers, I do know one chap who, having fingers long enough, uses his left hand fingers to reach over the main bell tube. Yes he is a pretty good player too.
  4. Will the Sec

    Will the Sec Active Member

    The army discourages left handed conducting - with the result that an acquaintance of mine ONLY conducts with his right hand as it is too much of an effort to stock wag with the right hand and direct with the other.

    Provided you beat is clear, and not back to front, I see no reason not to beat left handed.
  5. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    Oddbod!!!! a top lefty
  6. Nigel Hall

    Nigel Hall Supporting Member

    As a lefty conductor myself, I feel very uncomfortable conducting right handed and as a consequence my beat suffers. Although it takes bands a while to get used to me conducting left handed none have complained (well, not to my face, anyway) that they are unable to follow my beat. So, why change if your band has no problem with it!
  7. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    As a lefty myself (though not a conductor - heaven forbid! It would be a dark day when I stand in front of a band waving my arms about!) I don't see why you should change - surely you should do whatever is comfortable and natural to you so you can concentrate on the important stuff. I've been conducted by a couple of left-handers who were both fantastic conductors (Dave Newman and Kevin "Sid" Steward) and I have to say it really didn't take me or the rest of the band anytime at all to adapt to the leftyness in front of them. Stick at it and stick a couple of (left handed) fingers up to the people who still seem to think that being left-handed means you are involved in witchcraft.

    Incidentally I read an article a few years back by a fairly esteemed brass bander who was saying that if a player was left or right handed should be taken into consideration when encouraging them to play. Frankly I was amazed. Basically he was saying a left-handed player was less likely to succeed as a player (whatever that means) because of their bias toward the hand that we don't waggle valves with. I know a few very good players who are left-handed and it doesn't seem to be an issue, but since I read that I've always wondered if there was something in it. Any thoughts? Anyone know of notable professional players who are left-handed? I'm sure the majority of french horn players are still right-handed!
  8. MattB

    MattB Member

    I'm a lefty too. Nowt wrong with it, you carry on regardless!
  9. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I too am a sinister conductor :cool:

    There are a few about which have already been mentioned, but you could also include Donald Runnicles (conductor, San Francisco Opera). When I was at Guildhall, I failed my conducting assessment by conducting left-handed. Didn't do me much harm!
  10. MissRepiano

    MissRepiano New Member

    It's quite amazing how many bandsmen are left-handed!! I am too, and remember thinking it was wierd that I had to use my right hand for the valves when I first picked up a cornet!

    I don't see why left-handed conducting would be a problem, surely it's just like drivers driving on a different side of the road? It's not bad, it'd just different.
  11. halsasaurus

    halsasaurus Member

    I don't understand

    I don't want to appear thick, but, I am sure that when I have played, I have watched the baton, the eyes and the expression of the conductor. I cannot say for sure, which hand the Conductor has used. This may be because they were all right handed. I suppose it could be because they were all left handed, but the chances must be low to have met so many devils disciples in such a small envirenment during such a small timespan. Burn them all is what I say! They must be destroyed!
    Everyone on the left ....... march!
  12. Nigel Hall

    Nigel Hall Supporting Member

    Hasn't done Brett Baker any harm!!! (although he does conduct right handed!!!)
  13. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I believe Alex Mortimer was left-handed - happy to be corrected!

    I'm also a lefty and conduct LH without problems. Occasionally players mention it but it's quite rare that anyone notices. I'm not a great conductor, but that's not because I'm left-handed!!!

    Rob Wiffin is also a lefty, if memory serves, but was made to change in the RAF. I'm sure that is actually a good thing as it would make you ambidextrous and therefore perhaps more versatile.

    However, I'm sure it's also very hard to convert - so stay as you are!!!!

    Still, it's surprising to se how many of us are coming out of the woodwork here!
  14. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Fred Mortimer did OK as a left handed conductor, although he was basically right-handed. He started conducting while playing the cornet with his other hand and didn't change hands when he became a full-time conductor.

    Regarding left-handed instrumental playing, although I couldn't play sport left handed, I've had no problem playing french horn (years ago) and bass guitar. On the piano, both my hands are equally bad!
  15. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Just a thought here, how many of you sinster types use back to front beats and how many use them the 'right' way round?

    I ask because I've got a student who is interested in conducting and he is a lefty. Should he use the standard patterns or turn them around?
  16. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    Well, because I taught myself from a text book before I got to Uni, I had followed the beat patterns of a right handed conductors and just transferred them to my left hand. I had to reverse this when conducting at uni because the 2nd beat always needs to go in towards the body and the 3rd out in readiness for the upbeat. I woud say that if your student was going to conduct left handed then they would do well to reverse the beats. Simon
  17. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    John Knight, who started (what became) Hampsire Youth was also left handed and had come through the RAF, so they didn't disapprove. He was pretty successful too.

    I've been conducted by many sinister characters :) However, I won't be seeing you this evening, Simon, as I'll be up in London.

    You're right about people having pencils taken out of left hands and put in right - I'm sure it happened to me! As it has turned out, it has helped as I can do most things with either hand (my wife is always surprised when I'm using a paint brush with my left hand - she can't!)

  18. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    Thanks......I think (?!)
  19. Bones

    Bones Member


    Interesting thread, prompted no doubt from your recent appearance at the conductors contest in Newstead on Sunday. I was helping the band out on top trom, so apologies in advance for any errors :)

    From a players persepctive and I have been conducted by a few, my only gripe (if I may call it that) is that from a trom players position, the cross beats become lost from view for me if done left handed. However, this does engender a little concentration on my part so prob not a bad thing.

    MY only crtique of left handed conductors. However, it shouldn't limit you. Personally it is what you get used to. And several illuminaries have been quoted so don;t let if dissuade you as well.

    Well done for yesterday. 5 very different approaches and styles, all had merit in my opinion.


  20. Pastit

    Pastit Member

    Spare a thought for Sarah Groarke, a lefty and a woman. How did she get past the ducking stool!! ;)

    She even won a national title with Potters Bar a few years ago

    (BTW, she was great when she conducted at Rhos in the late 90's)

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